Empire State Building Latest Property to Turn to Bees to Lure Tenants Back

First King Kong and now queen bees.

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The Empire State Building joined the growing number of New York City office buildings with thousands of tiny, winged tenants, and Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) is positively buzzing with the news.

ESRT put beehives on the sixth floor of the iconic skyscraper, the fifth floor of 111 West 33rd Street and the roofs of 501 Seventh Avenue and 1350 Broadway in an effort to pollinate the surrounding flora and attract tenants with another return-to-work free-bee.

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Office tenants at the four buildings will be able to get free jars of honey after the November harvest, plus a chance to name each property’s hives’ queen bee, according to the landlord.

“The honey beehives are a great way to engage our tenants and our community with something that is so literally so small, but that has such a major impact on our daily lives,” Dana Robbins Schneider, ESRT’s senior vice president and director of energy, sustainability and environmental, sustainability, social and governance (ESG), said. “It contributes to our tenants’ environmental and ESG goals too. A huge part of the value that we add is that we do this for them.”

The hives atop the properties will be swarming with up to 50,000 Italian honey bees during the April through September pollination season, according to the bee provider Alvéole. But as tourists buzz up to the tower’s 102nd floor observatory, they’re not likely to be bothered by the docile insects located far below, said Madeline Zeif, the property’s beekeeper. 

That’s good news for the landlord, which can’t afford to lose more visitors to its observatory after its numbers plummeted during the pandemic. ESRT’s observatory hosted 687,000 guests in the third quarter of 2022, more than double 2021’s third-quarter tally but still a far cry from the 1.04 million people it had in the same period in 2019.

Office landlords have dropped serious coin to add numerous amenities to lure workers back into Manhattan’s skyscrapers, and ESRT isn’t the only one turning to Alvéole’s bees for help. The Canada-based beekeeping company has 160 hives atop more than 90 buildings in the city, including Nuveen Real Estate’s 730 Third Avenue, Brookfield Properties250 Vesey Street and at least five RXR properties. Last year, Goldman Sachs Assets Management partnered with Avéole to put hives on more than 30 of its properties nationwide, including 1 Flatbush in Brooklyn.

Wynn Geary, Alvéole’s regional marketing advisor, said landlords turn to their hives to help attract tenants and meet their ESG goals, even giving them the ability to see what nearby flowers their bees pollinate.

“People see value in our programs in a few different ways, and one of those ways is from a tenant engagement and retention standpoint,” Geary said. “All of our programs come with educational workshops that really teach people in the building.”

Geary added the company now offers a service called Track Your Impact “where we can use the hives to scientifically parse out the DNA from the different flowers that are blooming within a three-mile radius.”

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.